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Reynald’s Rap: Lance Reynald chats with Claire Cameron

By Posted on 22 5 m read 13.3K views

Lines marking the road.

Lines of a journey.

Lines on a map.

Things to be crossed, followed, broken and blurred.

As writers we deal with all kinds of lines, and everything we see between them.

A funny thing occurred to me in this interview, a certain subjective quality to literature. Those broken lines, what line a writer follows on the journey and the lines that the reader might pick up.

I followed a line of mild suspense, breakdowns in communication, fears, courage and misunderstandings. A line that felt a bit like a great Hitchcock film. Not an imaginary line; that story is certainly in there. Just not the full track of the book. There is another story. A story of love and loss, and a journey along 58 miles of highway to reconcile it all.

Not too shabby for a debut novel, an impressive debut from Claire Cameron in The Line Painter.


LR: Welcome to Litpark Claire!

Here we go:

Your book joins a vast literary tradition of road stories, with some shades of Hitchcock along a scant 58 miles of the trans-canadian highway, how did you come to find that setting?

CC: I spent a few summers working just outside of Hearst ON, where the book is set. I spent a lot of time out in the bush, days off in the town and nights off in the bars. That’s how I got to know the place.

It’s funny you mention Hitchcock. Many people describe, talk about the mood in my book, that it’s dark and creepy. I think of it as a love story–or perhaps the end of a love story.

That is one of the things I love most about my book being ‘out there’. Everyone has a different take on the story, depending on the experience they bring to it.

LR: Your personal bio includes a bit of time with the Outward Bound program, what of those experiences resurfaced while writing The Line Painter?

CC: I imagine you are referring to the bear encounter in the story, which didn’t come from my time at Outward Bound, but it is a mix of two different experiences.

The first was when I was hiking on my own near Canmore, Alberta. I was a two day walk from my van when I rounded a bend into an alpine meadow and saw a Grizzly bear in the distance. It looked over at me. I immediately backed up, but that took me back around the bend, so I could no longer see the bear.

I decided to drop my pack, as it had all my food, and climb a tree. This is, arguably, a pointless thing to do. If a Grizzly wants to get you out of a tree, it probably can. I sat in the tree for hours, unable to see the bear and unsure about what to do. When I finally got the nerve to come down, the bear was gone. I kept walking and never saw it again. Later, when I was telling the story, I could see a lot of humour in the situation. I was scared to the bone and the bear, as with most in the wild, couldn’t have cared less. When I remember it, I can almost picture the bear looking at me and shrugging. It was such a big deal to me, but nothing actually happened. It was an adventure I manufactured in my head.

The second was when worked up in Hearst ON. I planted trees to make money during University. Treeplanting is something a lot of Canadian students do, you work 11 hours days, planting saplings and get paid by the tree. Our camp happened to be in an area where the park service released black bears, from down south, that had grown accustomed to garbage as a food source. I wasn’t there at the time, but a few of my friends had a bad run-in with a bear that was sick and desperate. Three of them ended up in a tree, with the bear snapping at their boots. It was a close call.

LR: You’re touring your book at Husky stations. How goes the reception to literature in truckstops?

CC: I’ve had a good reception so far. Some truckers read in their downtime. Others just want to stop and chat as they spent hours on the road alone. I have sold and signed 11 books in 6 hours. I think that’s pretty good going? I’ve also heard a lot of stories about life, love and loss. As a writer, you can’t ask for more than that.

There is always an excruciating first half hour when I first set up. After about half an hour, someone decides to break the ice. It’s always entertaining after that. I’ve posted detailed reports from each truck stop on my blog.

LR: The story seems to effortlessly move in and out of flashbacks as a part of the narrative. Was the writing linear as such or did the story grow as two separate narratives?

CC: I wrote the story as a whole to begin with. I tend to write a first draft quickly and impulsively. That’s how I find the heart of the narrative. Then I start to rewrite, endlessly. It was during the rewrite that I picked apart the two narratives and developed them.

I’m glad it seems effortless. It never feels that way when I’m writing.

LR: How’s Alun Piggins making out on your tour?

CC: Alun Piggins played at the book launch. He wasn’t available to come to the Husky Truck Stops, because it’s now on tour in China. Out of the two, I suppose I can see why he chose China.

LR: What do we see next out of you?

CC: I hope to find a US publisher for The Line Painter.

My next book is in my head, but hasn’t taken shape on the page yet. Most of my thinking happens this way, on the back burner, slowly simmering, for a year or more before I start to type.

LR: Best of luck with getting that US publisher, and getting the next book out of your head.

Thanks for coming to the park Claire!

Thanks so much, Lance.



CLAIRE CAMERON was born in 1973 and grew up in Toronto. She studied history at Queen’s University and then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing and whitewater rafting in Oregon. Moving to London in 1999, she founded Shift Media, a consultancy with clients including the BBC, McGraw-Hill and Oxford University Press. Claire now lives in Toronto with her husband and son. The Line Painter is her first novel and was published by HarperCollins Canada in April. If you’re on MySpace, you can “friend” her here.

When not locked in the pantry evading anxiety attacks and sacrificing large quantities of peanut butter cups and Stewart’s Root Beer to the most recent copy of Writer’s Market, LANCE REYNALD can be found doing what most un-agented writers do all day; practicing signing his name with a Sharpie on 5X7 cards in hope that creative visualization will pay off in a book deal. Once the Sharpie huffing wears off he settles in to finishing up a shopable draft of POP SALVATION, the story of a boy who wanted to be Andy Warhol. He also distracts himself plenty with his blog at Myspace.

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  • Trisha Mortimore
    May 23, 2007

    Great interview Claire. I loved the questions that Lance asked you, and I especially love your responses. I have to say that THE LINE PAINTER is a must read for any aspiring writer.

  • Ellen Meister
    May 23, 2007

    What a wonderful interview. (And I love the pic of you with the red-shirted man.) Can’t wait to read this book. Good luck, Claire!

  • Susan Henderson
    May 23, 2007

    I love when Lance is here and I can sit back and read about a book and an author through his eyes. I think a truck-stop book tour says so much about Claire and HarperCollins Canada. Fascinating talk today, you two!

    Back in ’06, Claire won a contest and won an interview plus something from my Nile Rodgers swag bag. You can read that interview here:

    And Lance is up at Brad Listi’s Nervous Breakdown today with a story of having that itch to move. It’s a great read:

    Oh, and p.s., I try not to junk up Tommy Kane’s blog with storytelling – all of his artist friends are so nice and succinct, and I find it hard to stay inside the box – but he’s been drawing the photographers he works with, and today I love the way he stretched out this photographer’s arms and legs. What I didn’t post over there but was thinking about was when we were in Xi’an, China a couple of years back. And during the trip we had one single day of culture shock, but it was a doozy, and involved rats and snakes and tripe and sewage and a guy with no eyes and the realization that we’d left our passports in Beijing. Anyway, we spent the day in a hotel room (after emergency calling my terrific friend, Kesey, to help us sort out the passport trouble), and all we did was watch Monkey! (think Ultraman but wearing a monkey costume) and Chinese infomercials. My favorite informercial was the stretch-o-matic, which was this crank-machine that you lie in and turn the lever each day and you can literally grow inches in a month with no ill effect on the joints!

  • Juliet
    May 23, 2007

    Great interview, both of you.

    I very much appreciated Lance’s remarks regarding the relationship we as writers have with lines—searching the borders of self, crossing lines into new territory and trying to ensure that whatever trail we begin ends properly at the period or exclamation mark, and outrunning the fear of someone elses’ lines limiting our creativity.

    Claire, I picked up your novel on Lance’s suggestion a while back. Living in Ontario myself, and knowing those tree-planting jobs well, it was a familiar line and yet stretching my view of the land I live in, the thoughts and feelings I have toward it.

    The Husky Truck Stop in Bradford was the scene of more than one of my traveling mishaps in the early nineties. Truckers have, more than once, made a rotten day much easier, and I’ve spent my fair share of nights hitching rides and enjoying conversation.
    If it weren’t a four hour drive, and had I not a full list of things to do, I’d head there today just to smile at you.

    I’ve put The Line Painter on my re-read list for summer days along Lake Ontario.

    Hope to catch you at a Husky somewhere along the way.

  • Claire Cameron
    May 23, 2007

    It’s nice to have Lance back!

  • Jody Reale
    May 23, 2007

    Truck stop book tour: sheer genius.

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    May 23, 2007

    I love the photo of Claire lying on a yellow stripe in the middle of the road as if awaiting the line painter to divide her; would it be east/west or north/south?

  • Lois Sandusky
    May 23, 2007

    Lance, the great asker. And so enjoyed the answers. Will read The Line Painter now.

  • Susan Henderson
    May 23, 2007

    There is only one Lance Reynald.

  • Juliet
    May 23, 2007

    Amen, Susan. Amen.

  • Adrienne Jones
    May 23, 2007

    I really enjoyed that interview, and will def check out her work.

  • Noria
    May 23, 2007

    Great interview, you guys.
    Truck stop tour? So cool.

  • Anneliese
    May 23, 2007

    OMG! Brilliant! To introduce your book at truck stops! Yes! That makes total sense!

    It’s kinda like, if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, oh, wait, do I have that reversed? I’m so bad with saying Sayings correct.

    Why do authors mainly stick to the bookstore venue when it makes sense to include areas that relate to your book’s topic as marketing venues?

    My mind’s twirling, and I must return to actually working on my book, not thinking of how I’d tour it. I can relate somewhat to Claire’s effort as mine has to do with a highway. 🙂

    And to you, Lance: “…sacrificing large quantities of peanut butter cups and Stewart’s Root Beer to the most recent copy of Writer’s Market…” I gotta say, “Hey buddy, don’t sweat it. There’re worse behaviors. That’s almost too healthy!”

    Thanks for such an interesting interview! It’s got me thinkin’ about where along the side of the road…oh right, back to my research.

  • Lee
    May 23, 2007

    Lance is a great interviewer and Claire delivers the goods in her answers.
    Thanks for sharing this!
    (The formatting was a little screw wired . . .)


  • Lee
    May 23, 2007

    Lance is a great interviewer and Claire delivers the goods in her answers.
    Thanks for sharing this!
    (The formatting on the page was a little screw wired . . . web issue, or my super computer issue?)


  • lance reynald
    May 23, 2007

    thanks to everyone who made it to the Park to play today…

    and the flattering comments are making me feel a bit like the bashful shoe-gazer under the monkeybars… (shrug & smile) Thanks.

    and, another thanks to Claire for being such a good sport with another Reynald’s style Q & A…it was fun chatting with you, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of you next….certainly those Husky’s stories are gonna build something stellar!

    Now I’m back to locking myself in the pantry as I’m on a roll…


  • Susan Henderson
    May 23, 2007

    Write your heart out, Wondertwin. And let me know if you need me to send more Reese’s.

  • LaurenBaratz-Logsted
    May 24, 2007

    This interview caused me to friend Claire on MySpace – I couldn’t believe we weren’t already. Great job, Lance!

  • Myfanwy Collins
    May 25, 2007

    Such a great interview! Thank you for it.

  • Roy Kesey
    May 26, 2007

    Sue, I take no credit for Monkey! (Does that enable me to take no blame for the rat?) Regardless, great interview, you two.

  • Susan Henderson
    May 27, 2007

    Kesey – I’m going to go ahead and credit you for Monkey, the rat, and fake-Mulan. Hope your new book is out soon so you can come back to NY.

    Myf – Shouldn’t you be in labor about now?

    Lauren – I’ll see you Thursday, I hope.

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